Herman’s education began in 1824 when he was five, around the time the Melvills moved to a newly built house at 33 Bleecker Street in Manhattan. Herman and his older brother, Gansevoort, were sent to the New York Male High School. In 1826, the same year that Herman contracted scarlet fever, Allan Melvill described him as “very backwards in speech & somewhat slow in comprehension” at first but his development increased its pace and Allan was surprised “that Herman proved the best Speaker in the introductory Department”. In 1829, both Gansevoort and Herman were transferred to Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, and Herman enrolled in the English Department on September 28. “Herman I think is making more progress than formerly,” Allan wrote in May 1830 to Major Melvill, “and without being a bright Scholar, he maintains a respectable standing, and would proceed further, if he could only be induced to study more—being a most amiable and innocent child, I cannot find it in my heart to coerce him”.
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